Friday, 8 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 8 July 2016

Our founder, Hugh Sexey would have been proud of last night’s School Production of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew', which was performed with such confidence and energy by our Y7s and 8s. The cast and crew have produced a play which has set the standard for future productions - expectations will be high and the challenge even greater. The quote by Katherine, who was played by the eloquent Leanne Baker, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting” will ring in my ears for many years to come and well done to Jack Fowler-Baxter in the lead role of Petruchio, a difficult part to play but Jack rose to the challenge. Drama continues to excel at Sexey’s under the expert leadership of Mrs Kiddell and with Trinity Guild examinations on offer to our Sexeians and our partnership with the Youth Cinema Foundation, I am confident Drama will go from strength to strength. England’s most popular playwright, Shakespeare was a favourite of both Elizabeth I and James I to whom Hugh Sexey was the Royal Auditor and I think after last night's performance, a new generation of thespians are going to acquaint themselves with the bard. We also sponsored last weekend’s ‘Shakespeare Comes To Lamyatt’, where Hamlet was performed at Speeds Farm by the Festival Players Theatre Company and I know many Sexeians attended and enjoyed this event. Bringing the Bard to life who continues to this day to influence us through his many quotes, which have become part and parcel (is that one?) of our vernacular, ‘The world is my oyster’ to ‘heart of gold’  a national treasure to say the least. Best of luck to our thespians who will be treading the boards this evening – don’t break a leg whatever you do! Get your tickets now if you haven’t done so already. And speaking of taking to the stage, our very own Deliah Ackworth (L6) has successfully auditioned for the highly competitive National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. Do read below her story and how you can help.

It was a real privilege to attend the Somerset Games this week at Millfield School with the PE department and the event was opened by the Olympian marathon runner Mara Yamaguchi who spoke about character and resilience. Our sportsmen and women performed well with the swimmers coming a respectable 7th out of 14 schools and the Y7 Rounders’ team, who have had a tremendous season anyway, crowned champions of Somerset. A tremendous achievement and we wish the track and field athletes the very best today. We also welcomed the next generation of Sexeians this week (our new Y7 Boarders and Day students) for their Transition Day and it was great to see so many parents at the event – our new students had a brilliant time and my thanks go to colleagues and the prefects for making it such an enjoyable experience for them, from the variety of lessons they attended, the dress rehearsal of ‘Taming of the Shrew’, Games and afternoon tea with colleagues . We will be hosting our new Y7 boarders again this weekend when they will be having a sleepover in the boarding houses and will get the opportunity to make new friends, get to know each other, learn more about our boarding houses and most importantly, have fun! Let’s hope the weather is kind to us when we have the New Boarders’ BBQ at the Head Master’s House on Sunday with the Men’s’ Wimbledon Tennis Final in the back ground and later that evening the Euro 2016 Football Final. And let’s not forget the race to become the next British Prime Minister – it will be between two formidable women, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, We will of course watch this, as Shakespeare would have said ‘with bated breath’.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 1 July 2016

It's been a dramatic time following the EU referendum - a result few saw coming. The resignation of a prime minister. Recrimination and infighting in both of Britain's major political parties; calls for a repeat vote and England's subsequent exit from the European Championships - Brexit, Regrexit and sporting humiliation all in such a short space of time!  And Friday isn't even over yet. It’s been a tumultuous time in politics and I guess we are all trying to make head and tail of what is going on. I wrote last week, will I be writing ‘From the Head Master’ next Friday from a different political landscape. And the answer to that is – I certainly am. I wrote the following to staff last Friday after the decision to leave was announced  and I would like to share this with you today.

After some 40 years, our close and influential relationship with the European Union has come to an abrupt and bitter end with us leaving the EU, an institution that has been part of our cultural fabric for decades, and the resignation of our prime minister. A truly monumental day for the UK to say the least. We are now sailing in uncharted territory with many unknowns which will inadvertently affect our working conditions, pensions, tax, economy, house prices, security and mortgages amongst other things.  It will be a difficult and complex minefield to navigate. Many of you will be disappointed in this morning's outcome to leave the EU; and many of you will also be elated with the outcome. However, it's important we respect the decision of the British people (and that of each other) and come together, putting aside our differences and work together in order to achieve the best for our students, our school and ultimately our country. The values of tolerance, respect and kindness mean so much now. This morning I have been working with the BSA and the DfE to understand the wide-ranging implications of Brexit for our EU students - the vote to leave has brought much consternation amongst many of our state boarding heads; for the time being it is business as usual. Boarders with EU passports will be completely unaffected by the referendum result for at least the next two years. The Boarding Schools Association has already highlighted this issue, and will be pressing for clarity. British education has great international appeal, and we will hope to be able to continue offer this opportunity to EU boarders for many years to come. 

Many of our students, including those from the EU, will not fully understand the implications of leaving the EU, I'm not even sure many of us do either. So they will need plenty of support and guidance to help them come to terms with this decision which has been made against a back drop of divisiveness over the past few weeks from both sides of the political spectrum. We will need to think long and hard about what our British values are and what they stand for. I don't think we quite realise the scale of the political change ahead of us with this historic decision which will permanently change the course of our country. It's the biggest political change that our country will have experienced for the past half century and I hope our leaders are well equipped and prepared to reassure and navigate us through this political storm.

We have spoken to our students this week about the EU referendum result and for us to continue to live by our values and we have continued to educate and provide as many opportunities to our students. This week our U15s played at the Wells Cathedral Cricket tournament where the likes of the MCC, Bryanston and Blundell’s School were being represented and our boys won their match against the Wells U15s, which is a great achievement. Man of the match was Jack Ives who took 5 wickets. The ‘End of Year Art Show’ highlighted all that is outstanding about Sexey’s –  creativity and diversity - and the art that was on display was stunning; I am sure we will give Hauser & Wirth a run for their money! And speaking of running, we have ‘the Race for Life’ around Bruton after school today, so do come down and support our students, staff and friends of the school and give generously to Cancer Research UK.

Today saw our students organise and deliver the Battle of the Somme Commemoration Service that took place this morning – a sombre and emotional occasion where we remembered the soldiers, including those six Old Sexeians, Harold Carver, Ernest Court, John Hodges, Horace Marsh, Harrington Sebright and Frank Withers who studied, lived, and fell together. They gave their lives during the infamous Battle of the Somme, so we can live ours. Moving poems written by our students (Tommy Stewart and Bryan Chow) were delivered with great confidence and aplomb.  It was an emotional event. After a century, the sacrifice of those soldiers is not forgotten. Let us always remember. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 23 June 2016

The big day has finally arrived  - all the planning, the organising, the advertising, the fund-raising, the cajoling, the implementing – yes, today is the Macmillan Charity Day which took place this afternoon where the school raised vital funds for our partner charity, Macmillan Cancer Support (Douglas Macmillan MBE was an Old Sexeian) and the students had a brilliant time. The school was turned into a village summer fete with the Vicar of Bruton in attendance and traditional fayre games being the order of the day, from skittles and hook the duck to splat the rat and a coconut shy. Lots of money was raised as well as for a Leukaemia Charity (organised by Ryan Aldworth and his year group) and my sincere thanks go to Mrs Frost, the staff and Macmillan Cancer for getting involved and putting on such an excellent fund raising activity – again bringing our school community together to help those in need. It astonishes me how much we do as a school to help those less fortunate than us and it goes to show our values of tolerance, respect and kindness are inherent in all that we do. We said farewell to our Y11s yesterday at an entertaining and emotional Leavers’ Service and BBQ and we wish them well in their future endeavours (some still have exams this week and next) and we look forward to seeing many of them back in our 6th form in September. They have been a mature and talented year group (the Y11 Yearbook is just one example of this) and will be remembered with great fondness and affection.

We have also had considerable success in various sporting fixtures this week with an emphatic win over Taunton School by our U15 cricketers and U14 and U15 tennis at Milton Abbey – students enjoying their sport (when the weather holds up of course!) and developing in confidence and character. Huge congratulations also to Georgia Silcox (L6 Long Jump) and Caitlin Carnegie (Y11 1500m) who won their respective events at last weekend’s County Championships and will now represent the school and Somerset at the National Finals next month. What makes this achievement even more astounding is that this has been achieved with the back drop of public exams and I am so impressed with these two individuals and other students who work hard and play hard. We wish them every success possible. We have had even more success this week with Caroline De La Harpe (Y10) being awarded Silver in the Big Boarding Bake Off at Eton College – a tremendous feat (we were the only state boarding school in the final) and we look forward to tasting some of her creations shortly.  

We have the Glastonbury Exeat over this long weekend and I hope families will enjoy the extended time together, whether that be at the Festival or not, and if indeed you are braving the mud fest, I hope you have a great time. The Glastonbury Festival is part of the fabric of Somerset, part of the county’s DNA and brings so much to the local economy. But more importantly for bringing the performing arts, in all its shapes and sizes, to life. This cultural benefit should not be underestimated and we as a school will continue to support the Festival in any way we can and we wish Michael Eavis (whose grandson attended Sexey’s) and his team the very best this weekend (I do hope the weather is kind!). And speaking of performing, we wish Adam Wagstaff (Y7) all the best as he represents Sexey’s at the Big Boarding Choir this weekend in London. He will certainly be singing for his supper!

I also cannot ignore the significance of today, as today will go down in history. It is so rare that we as a country, as a generation, will have such an important decision to make today - to vote on our future in Europe in this historic referendum. Today's vote will have profound implications, not just for us in the UK but potentially could change the political landscape of a whole continent by breakfast time tomorrow morning. Will I be having toast or croissant with my tea? The planning, organising, advertising and debate over the past four months is now over. It's time to take a deep breath and to pick up that stubby pencil.... 

And by the way, congratulations to all the British and Irish teams for staying in Europe (Euro 2016 football that is!)

Monday, 20 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 17 June 2016

Joy and jubilation filled our hearts yesterday, as our national football team remembered how to play the beautiful game against our Welsh neighbours! The school community came together for this rare match which embodied everything about our British values. And before the match the students learnt about the value of sport and its place in society and for me, the most poignant part of this community event was when all the students (Y7 to U6) got up and sang the National Anthem with great pride and gusto, with no prompting at all. At 90 minutes I was getting ready to pour out my lament, recite Dylan Thomas and share recipes of leek pie, but instead we can now head into this wet weekend full of optimism and pride. And speaking of football, two of our talented footballers, Harrison McNairn and William Howarth are at a Tottenham Hotspur training day, perfecting their skills and learning from Premier League coaches – potential England players one day? This weekend, we wish Caitlin Carnegie (1500m Steeplechase) & Georgia Silcox (Long Jump) the very best as they represent Sexey's & Somerset at the South West Schools’ Championships in Exeter; Georgia will also be captaining the Senior Girl’s Somerset Squad – a huge responsibility and testimony to Georgia’s leadership skills. The Y9 boarders arranged a Sexey’s Fashion Show this week and tonight sees the first of our Leavers’ events, the much anticipated 6th Form Ball at the Haynes Motor Museum, where the U6 will bow out gracefully and reminisce about the highs and lows they have had whilst being a part of the Sexey’s family – it will be a wonderful occasion and I look forward to spending time with the next generation of leaders in our community and beyond.

However, yesterday we learnt of the horrific death of Mrs Jo Cox MP who was brutally murdered in her constituency in West Yorkshire whilst carrying out her regular surgeries with the people she represents. She was a compassionate MP dedicated to serving her people and ‘believed in a better world which she fought for every day'. At one point yesterday, we had a community made up of many colours, creeds and faiths coming together celebrating and rejoicing and the next moment we had a community, again of all colours, creeds and faiths coming together to mourn the loss of a loved one. Community is so powerful and we must embrace all that are part of our community. The husband of Mrs Jo Cox has urged people to "fight against the hatred that killed her" in the wake of her death and I hope through education and our values of tolerance, respect and kindness, we will all do this  - to make our communities safer places for us all.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 10 June 2016

For the next five or so weeks the sounds of Europe as well as its many national anthems will be ringing in our ears as the Euro 2016 Football Championships kicks off in France tonight. The EU referendum debates will be hotly contested too, much like the numerous football matches, as the 23rd of June fast approaches. The morning of Friday the 24th could be a very different UK by then as could the US in a few months’ time when the first female presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton takes to the campaign trail. The world is changing every day and we as a school need to adapt to these changes and equip our students with the life skills that they will need to cope with this ever changing world. Our mission statement resonates this - ‘Teaching boys and girls to think intelligently, act wisely and be fully engaged in a challenging and changing world’.

With the untimely passing of the greatest sportsman that has ever lived, Muhammad Ali, sport takes centre stage yet again. It wields a lot of power and influence in bringing people and communities together. It is certainly powerful and this football tournament heralds the start of a glorious summer of sport – with the US Open Golf championships, Test cricket against Sri Lanka, England vs Australia in rugby, the climax of the F1 racing season and Wimbledon just around the corner; it’s going to be a busy time for us arm chair sports enthusiasts and the remote control. This week saw over 50 of our students compete in the Yeovil Athletics championships with many of them surpassing their personal bests and finishing in the top 3, testimony to their hard graft, training and work ethic; something we saw during last term’s very successful Sports Day – thank you again for your support. Sport certainly is powerful and as I hear the preparations being made for the Race for Life event which takes place after school on Friday 1st July and is being organised by one of our Y10 prefects, we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to play, enjoy and witness sport at all levels.  Good luck to all those doing DoE this weekend across the Mendips, let’s hope the weather is kind.

As I settle down this evening to watch the opening game of the Euros, and over the next month or so follow with intent the progress of England (managed by the former English teacher Roy Hodgson), I wonder if this will indeed be like the summer of 1996, or even that of 1966. With the EU referendum looming ever closer and the noise and division it is creating on both sides, I hope this sporting event in Europe will bring people and communities together – solidarity and a unitedness which is very much needed at this time. On aside; after 60 years of hope, is this going to be England’s year? Or like Leicester City, will it be Wales? Nothing is impossible.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 27 May 2016

It didn’t look too good this morning as I peered through the window of my study and wondered if we were going to call off Sports Day due to the perennial Bank Holiday weather – rain.  However, it had brightened up by 9am and it was full steam ahead as we heralded in another successful Sexey’s Sports Day on the Elm Field. The Houses were in fine form singing with gusto the School Song building camaraderie and team spirit with staff and parents encouraging our sportsmen and women to achieve to their potential. Congratulations to Maddy Britton (Y8) and Josh Carr (Y9) on winning the most improved sports woman and sportsman respectively and for each winning the 100m at this week’s Yeovil Schools’ Championships. There is nothing like a good sports day to bring together the whole school community, from our Juniors through to the Sixth form, our staff, parents and friends of Sexey’s School. My personal thanks go to the PE department for their meticulous organisation, to the Estates team for the finely manicured tracks, House staff, the PSA, KDR, IT and of course the competitors, who battled hard but shook hands at the end. This time victory belonged to Glynn-Jones who won the prestigious West Midlands Relay Shield and the Track & Field competitions with Golledge winning the Macmillan Cancer Support Student – Staff Race. It was a fine way to round off this busy half term and a well-deserved break awaits our colleagues and students alike.

A moving U6 Leavers’ assembly took place yesterday in the 6th Form Centre and it was a fitting tribute to the maturity and diligence of this particular year group. They have been led admirably by George Tracey and Julia Blackmore who have encapsulated all the qualities that make a Sexeian – all commented on the friendly nature and warm atmosphere of the school, the life skills they have learnt and the strong relationships they have built, which will last for many years to come. Many have been here since Y7, many as boarders and the experiences and opportunities they have gained has been second to none. As Einstein said,  ‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt at school.’ And boarding can teach students the value of stability in a caring and nurturing environment. The U6 now immerse themselves in public exams after half term and we wish them well in their endeavours as they pursue coveted university places, gap years and internships come August. I thank them for the outstanding service they have given to the school – from music, art and drama productions, to a variety of sports teams and to the prefect body for setting the gold standard to the younger members of our community and keeping them on TRaK

I wish you all a pleasant and peaceful Bank Holiday and Trinity half term.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 20 May 2016

‘Take every opportunity that presents itself to you’ was the overriding message from the legendary chef Marco Pierre White who spoke candidly last Friday at Sexey’s about his life, family and extraordinary career. It was wonderful for our students and indeed our friends and the community (thank you for your continued support) to have such opportunities and it was a great experience for me to interview Marco and for guests to meet him afterwards over a glass of Bruton’s finest. Our very own chef, Mr Briatore, had prepared a tantalising feast after the interview (no pressure!) and Marco was genuinely impressed with the quality of food on offer here at Sexey’s. Although he will not be taking over the mantle from  James Martin’s ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen’, Marco has agreed to do a ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen’ here at Sexey’s with our boarders, who will work with him in our kitchens to prepare that day’s meals – another opportunity and experience not to be missed.

We also had a very successful Boarding Open Morning and again thank you to all colleagues and the community who go over and beyond to support us in our endeavours. Ultimately, we do all this for our students and I hope to provide even more opportunities for them – from the Sky Sports visit this week, rehearsals for Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’, acting classes for the Youth Cinema, art workshops at Hauser & Wirth, rounders, cricket and equestrian events to next week’s Holocaust survivor talk – plenty of opportunities.

Congratulations to our new Y10 prefects who were appointed this week and I wish them well as they seize this opportunity to gain leadership experience and lead the student body forward – they will be outstanding role models for the younger years. They succeed our Y11s who are currently in exam mode and good luck to our GCSE and A-level candidates who have started the exam season with a very positive attitude – long may it continue and we also wish them well on their journeys this summer. And speaking of journeys, the Duke of Edinburgh expedition last weekend was a huge success (the weather was stunning) and if there are any parents or friends out there who would like to accompany the next one (weekend of 11-12 June) on the Mendips, do please get in touch. Another opportunity not to be missed.